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Japan state fund to invest in ramen restaurant chain expanding overseas

[TOKYO] "Cool Japan Fund", financed mostly by Japan's government to promote Japanese culture overseas, will invest as much as 2 billion yen (US$16.51 million) in a ramen noodle restaurant chain to set up premium outlets in Europe and the United States.

Cool Japan Fund will inject 700 million yen into the Fukuoka-based Chikaranomoto Holdings, which runs Ippudo ramen restaurants in Japan and overseas including New York, London, Sydney, Singapore and Seoul.

"In Japan, people leave the ramen shop as soon as they finish eating," said Nobuo Sugiuchi, co-chief investment officer of Cool Japan Fund.

"But we want to build a ramen shop chain in a different style overseas. A ramen shop should be a place where customers can enjoy sake and side dishes as well as ramen."

Chikaranomoto can also borrow 1.3 billion yen from Cool Japan Fund.

Cool Japan Fund is willing to invest in other ramen restaurants if they meet the fund's investment criteria, said Mr Sugiuchi.

The fund, which now has grown to 100 billion yen, is one of Japan's state-linked funds investing in Japanese companies.

The government also created Innovation Network Corporation Japan (INCJ) as well as Regional Economy Vitalization Corporation of Japan (REVIC) to help Japanese ventures take off and nurture small companies.

Cool Japan Fund also aims to invest in anime, comic book publishers, movies and fashion. The fund so far has made about 18 billion yen of investments in six projects, including retail malls in China and Malaysia.

Chikaranomoto is Cool Japan Fund's first investment in a restaurant chain.